March 22, 2011
The Downside Of Flat Fees
The Indiana Supreme Court approved a consented-to public reprimand of an attorney on stipulated facts:
A criminal defendant hired Respondent to represent him for a flat fee of $15,000. Respondent prepared for trial three times, filed a motion in limine, conducted plea negotiations, prepared a sentencing memorandum, and represented the client at hearings on a motion to suppress and on sentencing. After the client was convicted on two felonies, Respondent tiold the client he had done much more work than anticipated and asked for additional compensation. The client agreed that Respondent would be paid $17,000 from a $20,000 cash bond. Respondent did not give the client written advice of the desirability of seeking the advice of independent counsel and the client did not consent in writing to the renegotiation of the fee agreement. Respondent began working on the appeal but the client soon terminated his representation. Respondent retained the additional $17,000 for his services until he refunded $5,000 to the client after the Commission filed its verified complaint against [him].
The misconduct involved violations of the business transaction rule and failure to refund an unearned fee. (Mike Frisch)
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